Non-perishable healthy foods are great to have on hand when you need to whip up a satisfying meal in a pinch. Shelf-stable staples can be great for weight loss, too! Although a weight loss plan is easier to follow when you have the time and opportunity to shop for fresh, healthful produce and lean meats, poultry and fish, access to these foods is not always possible. Stocking your pantry with healthy non-perishable food and your fridge and freezer with wholesome, versatile staples is key to being ready to put your healthy-eating skills into practice when life gets in the way of your plans.
What are non-perishable foods?
Merriam-Webster defines non-perishable as, "processed or packaged to withstand prolonged storage."1 Typically, these foods do not need to be refrigerated such as canned or packaged items. However, you could also consider certain frozen foods non-perishable as some may be stored in the freezer for up to a year.2
Make healthy, delicious meals in a pinch
A full pantry can be your reliable ally in planning healthy meals. Can’t get to the market? Need to create a meal out of what you have on hand? That’s when poor nutritional choices can upend even the best intentions. Stocking your shelves with healthy foods that don't spoil easily can make last-minute meal preparation less stressful when you can’t shop for fresh choices.
According to Jenny Craig’s Registered Dietitian, Briana Rodriquez, one of the best ways to sustain a healthy diet, regardless of your weight loss goals, is to learn how to shop effectively.
“Losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is about consistency and creating healthy habits, such as shopping with an eye toward nutrient-dense ingredients,” she says. “Having foods on hand that support your goals is a great place to start, and non-perishable foods can be great options. In fact, many of them are incredibly nutrient dense.”
To help you stock your pantry with the right kinds of foods, we’ve rounded up seven of the healthiest non-perishable foods to support your weight loss or weight maintenance goals.
If you’re following the Jenny Craig program, make sure to check with your coach before making any swaps or changes to your plan to stay on track.
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High in fiber, versatile and filling, these protein superstars are an excellent addition to your pantry’s non-perishable food line-up. Try substituting black beans or pinto beans for meat on your next Taco Tuesday. Or, whip up a batch of hummus with canned chickpeas for a delicious snack that will keep you energized and satisfied. If you’re a Jenny Craig member, enjoy our Cheesy Chicken and Rice Bowl that is packed with high-quality protein and flavor from black beans.
Did you know? Beans are a reliable source of vegetarian protein. Check out these 14 other meatless protein sources.
Healthy tip: Pair beans with brown rice for a complete protein and fiber powerhouse. Opt for low sodium or no-salt-added varieties of canned beans. If your goals include weight loss, Rodriquez suggests keeping your serving size to ½ cup.
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2. Canned fruits and vegetables
The good news: Most canned fruits and vegetables contain the same amount of nutrients as fresh and frozen produce.3 (Yes, they're still chalk-full of powerful antioxidants!) While they may not be your first choice, canned vegetables and fruits can be stealth nutritional heroes in a pinch. Canned corn boosts the fiber and color in your taco salad or homemade soups. Canned green beans play a reliable supporting role in slow-cooker minestrone, and no pantry of healthy non-perishable food is complete without canned tomatoes. Experiment to find your favorites, then stock those shelves!
Healthy tip: Look for low-sodium options of canned vegetables and no-sugar-added canned fruits or fruits packed in their own juice. Suggested serving size for weight loss: ½ cup.
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3. Nuts and seeds
In moderate amounts, dried nuts and seeds are great options for protein and healthy fats. From almonds and cashews to peanuts and walnuts, there are so many to choose from! Research shows eating nuts may reduce cardiovascular disease risk for people with Type 2 diabetes.4 With their earthy flavor and satisfying crunch, nuts and seeds may tempt you away from nutritionally empty munchies such as chips and crackers. Keep several kinds of nuts on hand to increase variety in your diet.
Looking for other ways to get your snack fix without resorting to empty calories? Check out these 9 healthy snack ideas.
Healthy tip: Opt for unsalted nuts and seeds and keep your portion to a small handful. To support a weight loss program, limit nuts to about 5-10 per serving.
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4. Nut butter
Nut butter is one of Rodriquez’s go-to plant-based snacks! On its own or spread on raw fruits or vegetables, nut butter is a nutrient-dense, flavorful treat. Moderate amounts can add flavor, texture and fiber to healthy dip, dressing or sauce recipes. Used judiciously, nut butters are a versatile addition to your pantry arsenal of healthy non-perishable food. In fact, peanut butter can stay in your pantry for 6-9 months unopened and 2-3 months once the seal is cracked, according to the USDA. Whether you like almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter or another variety, they are all pretty similar in heart-healthy fats. Just make sure to check the label for sneaky added sugars!
Healthy tip: Slice up an apple and dip into your nut butter of choice for a delicious and satisfying mid-day snack. If your goals include weight loss, enjoy one teaspoon of nut butter per day.
As snacks or as meal replacements, nutrition bars can comprise part of nutritious menu planning. Read labels to weed out high-calorie, nutritionally empty candidates in favor of those rich in protein and fiber. Rodriquez warns against bars that are high in sugar. “High fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners can hide in ingredient lists,” she says. “So make sure to read labels carefully before purchasing.”
Healthy tip: Beware! Some bars are very high in calories. Jenny Craig’s nutrition bars are excellent options to support weight loss and include a great balance of macronutrients. Our Recharge Bar is a fan favorite.
6. Canned fish
Talk about a nutritional long-lasting jackpot! Canned fish such as tuna and salmon are on the must-have list when stocking up on foods that don't spoil anytime fast. Canned tuna is low in fat, high in protein and provides essential nutrients such as vitamin D.5 Paired with whole-grain pasta or brown rice or seasoned and tucked into a lettuce wrap, canned fish lends satiety, flavor and variety to your healthy, from-the-pantry menus.
Healthy tip: Look for water-packed and no-salt-added options to avoid added calories and sodium. Jenny Craig’s Tuna Dill Salad Kit is a delicious shelf-stable item to have on hand. If you’re making tuna salad from scratch, try and stick to 3-4 oz. per serving to support your weight loss goals.
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7. Alternative milks
Alternative milks are solid additions to your stash of healthy foods in your pantry. Soy milk, hemp milk, almond milk … the list of shelf-stable dairy alternatives is long and the nutritional profiles of these beverages vary wildly. Checking labels is a must when choosing among the many options. Oat milk and rice milk, for example, typically have higher calorie and carbohydrate counts, while hemp and almond milk are on the lower-calorie end of the spectrum.6 Keep in mind your particular dietary needs when stocking your pantry with these versatile dairy stand-ins.
Healthy tip: Check for added sweeteners and flavors that can amp up the calorie count. Be sure to compare protein, vitamin and fiber counts as well. Suggested serving size: 1 cup.
Other great options
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- Brown rice
Try to stick to ½ cup serving to support weight loss.
Don’t forget to stock your freezer! Frozen vegetables can be added to many dishes to boost flavor, color, fiber and vitamins. Frozen fruits are the basis for healthy breakfasts, smoothies and snacks.
If you want fully prepared, healthy meals that are ready in a snap, Jenny Craig offers a variety of menu plans created to support a healthy lifestyle. Forget meal prepping or planning. Jenny Craig’s dietitian designed menus and chef-crafted meals take the guesswork out of weight loss.
Even the best-laid dietary plans can fall by the wayside when life gets busy and circumstances intervene. But healthy eating doesn’t have to be elaborate, expensive or dependent upon fresh foods. With a well-stocked pantry and freezer, you never need to worry about preparing a delicious meal that supports your nutritional goals. Having these healthy non-perishable foods on your shelf ensures you will always have nutritious options when you cannot get to the grocery store, or when life gets in the way.
Ready to get on the path to better health with nutritious meals and the help of a dedicated weight loss coach? Jenny Craig can help. Get started today!
Colleen Gibbs is a communications professional with 20 years of experience in journalism, public relations and content marketing. She has written for the music, culinary, finance, and zoo and aquarium industries. If Colleen is not outside cultivating her butterfly garden, she is inside reading yet another Tudor England biography or perfecting her coq au vin recipe. The mother of two college students, Colleen has a stand-up paddle board and is not afraid to use it.
Favorite healthy snack: Roasted unsalted almonds and ALL the summer fruits.
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
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